Write essays of no fewer than 800 words EACH in response to three of the following five prompts. Be sure to respond as directly and completely to the prompts as possible. Do not waste words on pointless introductions, repetitive conclusions, or other similar filler and fluff. Essays will be graded on the basis of accuracy, cogency, responsiveness, and comprehensiveness.
Present and explain the basic ideas behind virtue theory, utilitarianism, and Kantian deontological normative ethical theories. For each sort of theory, describe carefully how it claims we should go about answering the question “how should I act?”. Also, for each theory, be sure to give a brief characterization of the basic reasoning offered to support that claim. Finally, present some concrete situation presenting an ethical choice, and discuss how each theory would recommend that one go about trying to make that choice.
- Consider the case of a 21-year-old college student, hoping to go to medical school and doing very well in her pre-med curriculum. She is in a steady, monogamous relationship with her same-aged boyfriend who is also in college, but they have no plans to marry or to make a permanent commitment to one another at any time in the foreseeable future. She is going to college on a combination of scholarship money, loans, and her small salary as a part time employee as a Starbucks barista. She and her boyfriend regularly use condoms when having intercourse, but 6 weeks ago, the condom they were using broke. She did not take a morning after pill or any further contraceptive measures at the time of the incident. She now finds that she is pregnant. While she thinks she wants to have a family someday, she does not feel ready to do so now, and wants to terminate this pregnancy. However, she also wants to avoid doing anything that is morally impermissible or seriously vicious. She is not religious, and will not be responsive to religious arguments on the matter. She knows that you have just taken a philosophy class in which you read and thought about four different authors regarding the permissibility of abortion. She asks you to explain how those authors (Thompson, Warren, Hursthouse, and Marquis) would analyze the ethics of her situation, and the reasons they would give for and against her acting on her preference to terminate the pregnancy. Write an essay doing so.
Suppose instead that the woman is an affluent, 30 year old career homemaker and mother of two healthy children ages 3 and 5, in a successful, stable marriage, and 15 weeks pregnant. She did not plan on getting pregnant and neither did nor does want another child, but does not use contraception. Which of our authors would think that the ethics of this situation are significantly different from those of the previous case, and why?
- Present and explain Peter Singer’s argument for the claim that members of affluent societies should give everything they have beyond what they need to meet their basic needs to help alleviate the suffering caused by world famine. Then explain how John Arthur invokes the idea of entitlements to argue against this strong conclusion. How would Singer respond? Be sure to discuss the two authors’ views on the relationship between the moral code we actually have and can be expected to follow, and the one we ought to follow. Finally, how does Travis Timmerman argue against Singer’s conclusion? Do you think his criticism is compelling? Why or why not??
- Present and explain Steven Cahn’s distinction between procedural and preferential affirmative action. How does Cahn characterize the arguments put forward by proponents of preferential affirmative action, and how does he argue against them? Do you find his arguments persuasive? Why or why not? Explain the significance of Laurence Thomas’s remark that “it is possible to believe something quite sincerely and yet not have the emotional wherewithal to act in accordance with that belief” (Explaining Ethics, 3rd, p. 399) for Cahn’s question “Why make decisions based on fallible racial generalizations when judgments of individual merit are obtainable and more reliable”, and in general for the claim that pursuing procedural affirmative action is enough. Finally, explain how Thomas justifies the use of preferential affirmative action in university faculty hiring to provide role models and mentors, without implying that only members a group can be role models for members of that group.
- Present and explain Elliot Sober’s analysis of the difficulties faced by attempts by environmentalists to argue that the environment – and specifically species and ecosystems – deserves protection beyond what it ought to be accorded in virtue of its known instrumental value for human beings. How does he contrast environmentalists with animal liberationists, and what is the significance of the contrast? How does he argue that environmentalists cannot support their claim a) by appeal to totally unknown possible instrumental value; b) by appeal to the need for diversity of species; c) by appeal to the naturalness of species and ecosystems; and d) by claiming that species and ecosystems have autonomous value? How does Sober argue that the value of species, ecosystems and other natural wholes is akin to aesthetic value, and what is the significance of that claim for how we should think of environmental policy?